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Emirates has extended its ban on flights from SA – while Qatar and Etihad remain grounded

Emirates was expected to resume passenger flights from South Africa on the first day of 2022 but has now, in a notice to travel trade partners, said it is extending its ban until at least 10 January.

South Africa is still reeling from the effects of widespread travel bans imposed following the discovery of the Omicron coronavirus variant in late November. While major travel routes – like those to the United KingdomGermany, and the United States – have since reopened, travel to and through the Middle East remains tightly restricted.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) imposed a ban on travellers from South Africa within 48 hours the first Omicron briefing. Its flag carrier quickly followed suit by suspending all passenger flights to and from South Africa.

The ban, which exempted cargo carriers, was due to last throughout the month of December, with Emirates later clarifying that it would fly passengers into, but not out of, Johannesburg. Passenger operations to and from Durban and Cape Town remained suspended.

Just two days before the flight ban had initially been due to end, Emirates announced in a notice to travel trade partners that outbound flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban would remain suspended until at least 10 January.

This “new recommencement date” would be subject government approvals, according to the notice, reported on by Travel News.

Emirates’ online booking platform confirms this extension, with no available flights from Johannesburg to Dubai before 10 January. 

In addition to extending the ban on passenger flights from South Africa, Emirates added further restrictions on travellers from 10 other African nations, including Kenya, Ghana, and Zimbabwe.

Currently, only UAE nationals and first-degree relatives, who have been in or transited through the southern African countries in the past 14 days, are allowed to enter Dubai.

Emirates’ competitors are also holding off the resumption of passenger flights from South Africa, further restricting access to the Middle East and its transit hubs.

Qatar Airways had initially aimed to resume passenger flights from Johannesburg to Doha on 12 December, but extended its suspension by a month. Outbound flights from South Africa, and some neighbouring countries, won’t resume before 12 January. Qatar Airways’ flight status tracker indicates that all flights departing Johannesburg for Doha have been cancelled or rescheduled until at least 8 January.

Like Emirates, Qatar Airways is till operating cargo flights to and from South Africa, with a limited passenger schedule into Johannesburg.

Passenger flights to and from South Africa aboard the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways are only expected to resume in February.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

Emirates has extended its ban on flights from SA – while Qatar and Etihad remain grounded

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